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Thread: Common 6-Mile Sense

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    Default Common 6-Mile Sense

    White-water rafters survive close call on Sixmile Creek

    By KAYLIN BETTINGER
    kbettinger@adn.com
    Published: August 3rd, 2010 04:25 PM
    Last Modified: August 3rd, 2010 04:25 PM
    One woman was hospitalized and eight people had to be rescued from white water after their raft flipped and deflated on Sixmile Creek Sunday afternoon, according to the Alaska State Troopers.

    The rafting party was ill-prepared for the trip, which usually requires dry suits and helmets, according to troopers. They pushed off at the head of the river wearing T-shirts, waders and less-than-adequate flotation devices, troopers said. The Sixmile is a fast-moving river with Class V rapids that runs through a series of three canyons near Hope, off the Seward Highway.
    The 16-foot inflatable raft hit rapids and slammed into a rock canyon wall less than 10 minutes into the float, puncturing the boat and flipping the riders into the churning water. Six of the rafters were quickly rescued by other boaters, one swam to shore and two more floated a mile and a half before they were picked up, both suffering from hypothermia, troopers said. One of them, a 19-year-old woman, was flown to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage with a head injury.
    "Any time you get out of a dangerous situation like that, you are lucky," said Megan Peters, a trooper spokeswoman.
    Josh Hoehne, one of the rafters, said the Sixmile trip was a last-minute decision. He was with his brother-in-law Derrick Bruso and two teenage nephews, Wyatt and Evan, and five friends. All were on a weekend camping trip at Tustumena Lake. They had planned to float the calmer Kasilof River, but on Saturday night they decided to raft Sixmile Creek instead. A couple of them had done it before, he said.
    "There was a bit of mob mentality that kicked in instead of common sense," Hoehne said. "All of a sudden it just seemed like a great idea."
    Just after 3 p.m., they got to the mouth of Sixmile, where Chugach Outdoor Center guides were preparing their boats and clients for a trip down the river.
    Guide Lauren Farrell said she saw them and was concerned with their equipment -- some were wearing chest waders, and their life jackets were not suited for white water. She and a trooper on scene warned them about the Class IV and Class V rapids that they would encounter on the way down.
    Hoehne said they should have listened to the trooper.

    "We heard them but we didn't hear them," he said. "We had a lot of that mob mentality going on. The more people that get together, the dumber they get."
    RAFTER COULDN'T SWIM
    Sarah Broughton, another rafter in the mishap, said she was also concerned but she trusted that she was with people who knew what they were doing. Then she saw the guided group with helmets and dry suits.
    "At first I thought that they were just geared up because it was just some type of training and then I looked down and could see how fast the water was going," she said.
    They had been rafting the day before in the Kenai and she thought Sixmile would be similar. She didn't know how to swim and her life jacket wasn't rated to float her weight. She was wearing polyester tights, sweats and a rain jacket.
    They climbed into the boat and pushed off. Minutes later, they hit their first rapid. The boat was thrown into the canyon wall. One of its inflated cells exploded. It tipped, turned.
    "There was this moment when we realized we are going over," Hoehne said.

    TWO SWEPT AWAY
    Charlie Howard and Stephan Beissmann, also guides for The Outdoor Center that day, were both on the water ahead of the capsized raft. Six floating rafters came toward them and they pulled them into their boats. They watched another rafter swim to safety. But the last two rafters, Sarah Broughton's 19-year-old sister Kayla and Louis Leon, disappeared downriver with their damaged boat.
    Howard, in a smaller raft, followed them through the next two rapids into a narrow gorge. He had to maneuver around the damaged raft to get to both of them. Broughton was out in front of him and he saw her go under. It was in a dangerous area called Split Rocks, where underwater currents create places where people can get stuck under the bank.
    "I knew she had gone into a pretty bad spot," he said.

    'UTTERLY DAZED'
    All Kayla Broughton remembers is her knees touching the bottom, she said.
    "At that point, I was trying to breathe, holding on to the life jacket," she said. "Under the water, I couldn't feel the coldness. I was probably already numb."
    She was down for 45 seconds or a minute, Howard said. When she came up, she was on her back, unresponsive. Charlie paddled to her and got her onto his raft. She gasped and threw up water.
    He took the two down the next set of rapids to a place where other Outdoor Center guides and help were waiting. They laid Broughton on a piece of plywood as a makeshift backboard.
    "The look on her face was completely and utterly dazed," her sister Sarah said. "She looked like she was dead."
    Kayla Broughton was medevacked to Anchorage, where she was treated and discharged on Monday.
    "I'm really happy to be alive," Sarah Broughton said. "We're all thankful. We're all extremely thankful."


  2. #2
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    Couple points of interest for rafters to keep in mind ---- and why accidents happen.

    This particular incident had a better outcome 100 percent due to professionalism by experienced river guides, trip-planning structure with contigencies, the guides/outfitters equipment, effective response time, plus guides very familiar with the river.

    A. This was a band of Kenai River going mentality with limited skill levels, using a far less than best quality weekend warrior fishing raft, not even ballpark geared up suitably for any of what Sixmile has downstream of the put-in.

    B. They were warned/advised/cautioned/etc. by river running professionals as well as law enforcement then proceeding paying no heed.

    C. The visual aids of helmets, high-float PFDs, dry-suits, and likely a comprehensive safety talk gathering where all ignored.

    A-Z. Plain and simple... no plan - certainly no place for these folks.

    Fortunately it is a daily-user run for commercial operators. If this was a remote wilderness river of self-reliance... we'd have a whole different article in the paper.

    Bottom line: Foolish on every account... those venturing the weekend warrior mentality on inherently demanding whitewater river, plus people too trusting in others inabilities with poor choices of equipment. They also risk the efforts of guides, their clients while operating a tour, including commercial gear and river rescue support.

    So as not to sound overly critical... acknowledging impacts, tips, pins, flips, punctures, and blow-outs with swims indeed will occur by the beginners to the knowledgeable seasoned... it is a beginner to intermediate weekend warrior trap that many, many are going to more consequently be getting themselves into.

    1.
    Tons of new, available gear is out there, however many will fail to do (or comprehend) the real-world research.

    2. Lots of rivers to be run --- several with easy roadside access, nevertheless folks often do little to realize what they are getting themselves into.

    3. The one 'up-man-ship' that often takes place in a sporting adventure.

    4. Not knowing what kind of forces moving water can be packin'

    5. Believing that it's having equipment that gets 'er done... without the skill/mind-sets to go along with it.

    This is a classic Alaska river rafting lesson, having all the outstanding details, leading up to what could have ended in tragedy.

    I do know Derrick Bruso... and feel he will relive this online, in press, by dreams, and on river outings to come. I wish he and his crew well --- trusting they come away grateful as well as better prepared for the next raft adventure - wherever it be.

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    It's hard to let this one just fade away. A friend of mine found this YouTube video of the "accident" posted on one of the victims Facebook. Feel free to do your own video analysis.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUsCAY7iAXA

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    Thats nothing a couple years ago a guy with a Canoe stops by the Salvation arm Thrift store, not that you couldn't find good life jackets there, and buys two for his two kids.
    Stops there along the highway and see's a nice flowing river, at it does look easy right there. So he puts the two kids in the canoe and off down six mile there go.
    Some how, must of been a miracle but they all survived, hauled out some place down stream after what must of been a heart stopping ride.
    Just can't do any thing about stupid, which goes hand in hand with common sense, of course reading is also one of the options!

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    The sad part of this is that in this day and age as long as you get the video some will think HOW COOL is that!

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    I know it was stupid, but are you telling me he MADE IT down 6 mile in a canoe with 2 kids in it?????!!! While stupid as heck to do, that is still impressive paddling, heck I swamped a canoe just trying to catch a couple stockers in memory lake on a bluebird day.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LuJon View Post
    I know it was stupid, but are you telling me he MADE IT down 6 mile in a canoe with 2 kids in it?????!!! While stupid as heck to do, that is still impressive paddling, heck I swamped a canoe just trying to catch a couple stockers in memory lake on a bluebird day.

    They did dump the canoe and got rescued. I read the lastest 6 mile article. I am a kenai, kasilof guy. Both Cat and Drifter. There is no way on gods green earth Im putting my cat in 6mile no matter what gear I own. That place is WAY out of my league.
    Grandkids, Making big tough guys hearts melt at first sight

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    I went down six mile last summer with Nova River Runners - no way would I do that river without a guide. Our guide did make it seem somewhat easy - but we had a great group of people in our raft. Nova people put a great emphasis on safety, safety, safety.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jws View Post
    I went down six mile last summer with Nova River Runners - no way would I do that river without a guide. Our guide did make it seem somewhat easy - but we had a great group of people in our raft. Nova people put a great emphasis on safety, safety, safety.

    The wife and I want to do it with the professionals. I can row the pee out of my boat. Not there though. That place is tight, fast and you die quick. Someday were gonna make that run with the pro's
    Grandkids, Making big tough guys hearts melt at first sight

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    Quote Originally Posted by power drifter View Post
    The sad part of this is that in this day and age as long as you get the video some will think HOW COOL is that!
    True. And, I thought about that before posting it. Carnage videos can be pretty cool and educational, but I'm sure this guy and his crew do not feel very cool having had to be rescued and had their ordeal published on the front page of the ADN. I am glad that YouTube, Facebook, and the Internet were not around during some of my mistakes on the ocean, rivers, and mountains. I too would have been famous for all the wrong reasons. Hopefully, this guy and his friends learn a thing or two from their experience- I know I have, and will continue to do so, from my own misfortunes.

    It blows me away how many locals have not floated this river, including my own wife. It is a great time. Next time you’re on the way down to the Kenai, Seward, Homer, or Kasilof to do some fishing, take a few hours and float 6 Mile. It is about as much fun as a person can have in a few hours. Call ahead to Chugach Outdoor Center or Nova, and tip your guides well.

    I to not, however, think 6 Mile should be left to just guides. This recent incident makes all of us recreational boaters look like a bunch of carp. Since it is difficult to find experienced people that are available to boat whitewater, I have found progress to be slow and difficult. Rafting all three canyons of 6 Mile had been an elusive goal of mine for the last few years. Two days before “the incident”, my patience finally paid off. I made my long awaited first trip down all three canyons, coming through right-side-up, having had a couple close calls but with no gear damage. My first screw up happened in Predator, relatively the same place as this guy. The only difference was preparation, both with gear and mentality. To start out, I had paid Chugach Outdoor Center for two previous trips, repeatedly pestering their guides for beta. The last couple years I also worked on rowing my own boat down the first two canyons with kayak friends. This year I bought a 13’ Sotar cat to start running the class V stuff. My cat is tough enough to take the inevitable blow from the sharp 6 Mile canyon walls; it is also maneuverable, especially rowing solo; and my boat is rigged to flip- I have a flip line and have practiced flipping her. I wear a highfloat PFD, drysuit, and helmet. I wouldn’t do this trip solo, but I only worry about myself in my boat (no passengers…yet). I’ve taken a swiftwater rescue class, read all the guidebooks on 6 Mile, did Internet research, scouted for hours, and listened attentively to others familiar with the river. Most importantly, over the last dozen years, I have gained experience floating as many III and IV rivers as possible. Having prepared the way I have, I still realize I can and will get my butt handed to me. You definitely need to give this river the utmost respect.



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    This is an amazing story to me. They had a couple of their members who had done it before (I assume as a commercial trip), they were warned not to do it, they saw that they did not have the appropriate equipment, and still they tried it. I can't see from the video where they popped the tube, but I assume at the entrance to the gorge just before the video starts. They didn't even make it to Predator; they were in the middle of the flip before they got to it. Since this is at the very beginning of the first and easiest canyon, that's not a good performance.

    The water was about 10.5' that Sunday, medium to high-medium, depending on who's rating it. I don't do it over 10.5' because most of the eddies get washed out, and swims can last a long time. Most deaths on Sixmile have occurred with the water at 11' or above. Still that one young lady might easily have died if not for the COC guys. She was very lucky.

    That said, I was planning a Sixmile float for this coming Saturday, but the rain has raised the water too much and we are going to postpone it a week. Anyone interested? My boat's full, but if you have your own and want to get wet...

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    Jim, I'm in for next weekend, or if the water drops and you want to head out in the next few days, let me know-I have the next seven days off. I'll be rowing my cat solo.

    Josh

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    Default Fun Mode

    The stars and planets were lined up in this case,but it is to bad for the newbies who will probably never try to boat again. The leaders of the group wanted to show their friends a good time, and inexperience got the best of them.
    (First of all, most of us have done stupid things in learning the whitewater game), and I still, always, question my judgement to this day. The guys who went with the guide service probably had clean runs and in the eyes of beginners it obviously made it look doable. Running whitewater appears fairly safe if the boater has an understanding of top- notch gear, and how to use it, "OR" has someone to do it for them.
    Most beginners do not understand water features and how to use them "when things go wrong". Those of us who have had a few gnarly swims, or more, will try and catch the first small eddy we can,by aggresive on belly stroking, get on the boat upside down, etc., "whatever" ,and wait for rescue, but this is because of experience. I remember my first long swim on my second trip down the guardrail at a high flow, it definitely sucked but was longer, because I was waiting for opportunity instead of being more proactive with my self rescue, again experince.
    What can help the inexperinced in the case of Sixmile.
    Sixmile is by the road and should have warning signs at the put in, which states it is a killer river and the inexperienced,should go with a professional for safe passage. How many people will have to die on that creek before the state puts up a simple warning sign at a couple of put in locations.
    Very sad guys, but don't bag on them to much.
    MO

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    I suppose you're right Mark. I've certainly done my share of dumb things. --- But usually not after being told how stupid this would be.

    I believe the land is owned by the US Forest Service. So far they have been reluctant to do anything because if they do anything at all (like putting up a warning sign) they acknowledge that they have responsibility for the river's dangers. By doing nothing at all, they have no liability for what people do on an essentially naturally flowing river. At least that's the story I've heard in the past.

    A few years ago a family went put in with canoes on a nice warm June day. The water was raging high from snow melt, so even the commercial guys were taking the day off. They made it to just above the canyon, flipped their boats, and at least one of them swam a good portion of the canyon before getting out. No one died. They (or someone connected to them) said at the time that they were going to put up a sign at the put in without permission from the Forest Service. Later I remember seeing a small marker with a discrete warning off to the side, but it was actually hard to find and wasn't much of a warning. I haven't seen it the last couple years. at least I haven't noticed it.

    Anyway, I think not acknowledging responsibility to escape liability is a lame defense. But I think too logically to be a lawyer.

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    Talking about dumb things I've done, I was just thinking back to the first time I floated Sixmile. It was also a warm June day with the water raging from snow melt. We were putting our boats and gear together and were only planning on the first (class IV) canyon. I'd done other class IV water, so I didn't think much about it other than the excitement of a new river to run.

    Nova was also launching, and one of their guys came over and looked our stuff over and asked us about our experience. He suggested that we wait to do our first trip on a day with a lot less water, but we explained that we were only doing the "easy" canyon, and we believed we would be just fine. We did not have drysuits, but some of us had wetsuits and some of us had neoprene waders with the feet cut off (actually a surprisingly warm alternative). We also had good boats, half decent PFDs and semi-lame helmets, so we weren't totally ill equipped.

    I was following my friend, who had been through once before. He bounced off the wall above Predator and then I hit just below really hard. One of my riders plopped into the water and I was so busy trying to stay upright, keep off the walls and still remember to breath, I couldn't do a thing for him. He eventually made it into the other boat, but I careened from rock to rock all the way to the bottom of the canyon before I could figure out how to stop.

    After the panic eased, I parked the boat and swore I'd never do that again.

    A couple weeks later I booked a ride with Nova, had a blast, and by the end of August I was pushing my cat down Sixmile again. Some of us just learn slow.

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    Its called common sense. Use it. There is no sign for it
    Grandkids, Making big tough guys hearts melt at first sight

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    Quote Originally Posted by alaskachuck View Post
    Its called common sense. Use it. There is no sign for it
    I agree Chuck, But I think they stopped teaching that class!

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    I still say it is the most wonderful place in Alaska to live, even if there are bodies bobbing down the creek now and then.

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    Default Ignorance

    Common sense, pertains to" reasonable judgemen"t, and this becomes increasingly erronous, and goes hand in hand, with the degrees of the absence of knowledge in any particular field.
    I do see some of you guys points about using simple common sense, but it is more than that. Two smooth trips with a guide led to a false sense of mastery, and ignorance of the truth led to poor judgement.
    River guys know, don't wear waders in rough water. Whitewater guys understand floatation and the impact aerated water has on it etc., again experience and the percieved needs of understanding, leads to their success. They were warned, yes, but the lack of river skills, and psuedo mastery is the culprit.
    Does anyone remember the canoe that used to be at the enterance to the second canyon? They both died and had no idea what was in store for them because, I believe, they put in at boston bar.
    In the early 90's I gathered a group of friends for a run down Sixmile, and did use Nova because I did not want to be in control. The problem was we did go at super high water, right at the shutdown point, and my friends had little experience. Long story short, we did flip and had a woman trapped under the raft, and everyone in the boat has never been since. Years later I would take newbies at a much lower water level, because I understand alot more than I did then. I am not saying this as a war story, but as an example of my own poor judgmeent, even though I did have enough common sense to use a guide.
    For the State or forest service not to post a warning sign is about as dumb as not putting a warning sign on a box of bullets. In this case, the latter requires a lot less common sense to figure out the consquence of ignoring it, and it is mandatory. People usually don't point guns at their heads because it is all over the media outlets what happens, and is a very well known fact. I guess I sympathize with the leaders, in a sense, I know they surely wanted to show their friends a good time.

    It is just as easy to blame the people whom warned them, maybe they were not convincing enough to break fun mode. I would have been extemely, extemely assertive, making eye contact with the passengers, then would proceed to explain to them that there would be a good chance someone is going to die. Put the word die in there and usually the ignorant pay more attention.

    At any rate, sad in a sense, but I am glad nobody was hurt. To bad it takes mishaps to create great dialogue amongst boaters.

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    I posted the story (as told in the press) and my follow-up debriefing of sorts of the traumatic event.

    In purpose... I was focused on reducing possibilities of future physical injuries, psychological harms, or potentially deadly scenarios from unfolding. Informing people about their rafting experience, semi-structurally indicating an ABC-123 information assessment, in a forum to talk about it.

    I sense we are getting off-track... it is what it is!

    No --- there should not be signs saying what a person can or can't do and a bunch of warning wordage!!!!!!!

    No --- it is not up to law enforcement, Fed. State government, professionals, or locals to advise/warn people!!!!

    Whether individuals are the brightest, talented, informed, fit, best geared up, aware, & practiced bunch - to - complete (add a colorful expressions here).... this should not have one thing to do with any of this. Again - it is what it is! Let's not dilute this perfect case study of near disaster and well done rescue effort. Take these folks story to heart and mind... novice weekender to the expert professional... all of us can glean something from it.

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